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A Fourth of July Retrospective: Things That Go Bang!

For people all across the U.S., the 4th of July is a day for celebrating the birth of our nation and the independence and freedoms we, as Americans, enjoy to this day. Here at SST, we enjoy and celebrate this important day in our history as much as anyone. It is also, however, a work day for us unlike any other for two very big reasons.

The first reason is the most obvious: the sheer volume, intensity and ubiquity of fireworks – not just at sunset on July 4th, but all day long, only to peak with the thunderous cacophony of explosions that go on literally for hours in SST’s Real-Time Incident Review Center (IRC) as the sun goes down across time zones from Boston to Los Angeles, St. Thomas to San Francisco – tests the limits of ShotSpotter’s capabilities in all facets. In the absence of gunfire or other loud, impulsive sounds that ShotSpotter otherwise detects every day, the constant pop, bang and boom of firecrackers floods our sensors, the third party communications networks that carry data from those sensors to SST’s two data centers, and SST’s IRC with information and sound to be processed and analyzed. Where gunfire is present, it can be harder to detect -- like so many needles in haystacks -- when fireworks are exploding at the same time. Let’s just say we stay busy and on our toes, with virtually all hands on deck.

As a company, we have learned a great deal about what to expect and how best to manage this one-of-a-kind peak load. Some of that learning has come the hard way from our earliest experiences, and we have since made many adjustments to hone our systems and optimize our processes for the unusual load. We have adapted in other ways based on suggestions and insights provided by our customers – like prioritizing “multiple gunshot” events over others and allowing more time to review all incidents if a queue arises from volume and network latency -- and for those suggestions we are extremely grateful! I am very pleased to say this year saw the smoothest sailing yet, and it has been very gratifying to hear that from our customers as well.

The second reason is less obvious, even though we and the law enforcement agencies we serve talk about it all the time, and that is celebratory gunfire. The good news is that thanks to the creative and diligent work of many of our customers, celebratory gunfire incidents are clearly dropping in number where those agencies have made combatting celebratory gunfire, through education and interdiction, a priority. Unfortunately, not everyone is paying attention because this year as with others innocent people and their property continue to be victimized by illegal, celebratory gunfire. In what is possibly the most chilling case I have ever heard, as reported in the news, one man was killed this July 4th and another critically injured when a high voltage power line was shot down by celebratory gunfire and the victims were electrocuted.

It is our hope that, as more cities deploy ShotSpotter in their communities as part of their overall gun violence reduction efforts, our citizens across the country will remain safe and secure, on the 4th of July and every day.


Joe Hawkins
Senior Vice President, Operations


July 14, 2014
By: Joe Hawkins, Senior Vice President Operations